The coffee was strong and too hot, but David drank it when his mother insisted. She was telling him that he needed sleep. The coffee, she said, would not keep him awake. She had carefully chosen the right kind. His head was hurting and she could tell.
It was Midnight, but his mother was straightening his house. David decided to go to sleep. He climbed into his bed and slept a long, dreamless sleep. When he awoke, the sun was shining through a crack beneath his window shade. He did not hear any sounds from the depths of the house and determined that his mother had left. When he entered the kitchen, the linoleum had been scrubbed clean and his dishes were stacked neatly within the cabinets. On the table were blue place mats. They were like the ones at his mother’s house.
David dallied as long as possible in the kitchen. He inspected his cupboards and refrigerator. There were frozen, homemade soups in the icebox. He placed one of the plastic containers in the microwave and thought about brushing his teeth. His fear of the bathroom, he decided, was real. He thought about the bathroom as he brewed coffee, drank it, and rinsed the cup. He set the clean mug and soup bowl in the empty dishwasher.
His eyes were normal in the mirror. The walls were empty. He heard only the usual sounds of the bathroom. When he was in the shower, David noticed the smells. He could smell the soap before he had picked it up and before he had wet it. The shampoo in its bottle made his nostrils flair. The toilet water, too, had a strong odor. It smelled like he was sick and heaving over it—-but he was in the shower and the lid was closed.
[Can I dream in the daylight?]
He sat on the couch with his too-long hair drenched and clinging to his face in wet chunks. He was shuddering and naked. He was cold and he had left the towel in the bathroom. His strong, callused hands were trembling on his thighs. David considered calling his mother. He picked up the phone, dialed, and then easily replaced the receiver. She would not understand.
[Who dreams all the time?]
The door was knocking. He could hear it, but he could not move. David was tired, and he was unclothed on the living room floor. The carpet itched his nose. He was too nervous to scratch it. After some time of sitting, he had decided that even his bedroom, next to the bathroom, was unsafe. It was almost dark in the room, lit only by the yellow streetlights outside. David was unsure how long he had been on the floor. He heard a key crunch into the lock and the soft sound of the door push open. He heard his mother thank someone, probably his landlord from next door.
She was bending over him and he could smell the artificial flowers dabbed on her neck. He heard her nails click the buttons as she dialed the phone. David didn’t care what she thought now. She had placed a warm, brown blanket over him and he was comfortable. He pulled the corner of it under his head and his nose ceased to itch. The knock of her thick heels on the kitchen floor, and then the soundless foot vibrations to follow, told David his mother was nearing the back of the house. She was using his bathroom. He considered calling out to her. She would be afraid of a place where she could smell and see and think and hear like she was in a dream. If she doesn’t come running out in fear, he thought, does that mean my bathroom is just a bathroom?
The washcloth was rough and hot. She had wet it and rung it out before placing it against his forehead. His mother seemed impatient. She was waiting for someone. She had not spoken when she came out of the bathroom, but he knew she had been in there a long time.
David sat on his bed. He wanted to protest when his mother was packing his clothes, but he did not. He wanted to ask her what she had seen in the bathroom, but she was unusually silent, and he did not want to disturb her. When the moving people came, they took his couch and lamps. They pulled the carpet from the wood floor. He watched his mother direct traffic and thought about all the strangers walking over his floors. He chewed his fingernails and the skin on the sides of them.
He slowly unpacked his belongings in his bedroom at his mother’s house. He unwrapped a shoe from wrinkled newspaper. She had wrapped everything. It was dark, and his mother was asleep in her bedroom. He could hear her deep, calm breathing through the wall. He could not remember what it was like to sleep like that. He decided to ready himself for bed, but he could not find his toothbrush. He flipped through the boxes on the floor. All were empty. As he sat on the edge of the bed, David found that he had not unpacked his shampoo, his razor, or his soap. There were no bathroom supplies.
He realized his mother had forgotten to pack in the bathroom.